On Friday October 21, 2022, the Czech Center organized a round of readings in various cultural institutes in Vienna as part of the Lange Nacht der Literatur, or “Long Night of Literature” to mark the Czech EU Council Presidency. The motto of the initiative was “Peace” and featured nine authors from nine countries.
The readings were held between 6.00 p.m. and 11.00 p.m and started off with the official opening in the Czech Institute in which representatives from the various countries spoke briefly about their participation in this event.
The first address was by the Ambassador of Malta to Austria, H. E. Natasha Meli Daudey who thanked the Czech Institute and EUNIC for this initiative and encouraged our European partners to continue to collaborate and share their cultural wealth.
After the official opening, I gave a reading of four of my poems in Maltese. I spoke about the significance of peace and how poetry explores the humanness inside us. Our relentless search for peace is inspired by the acknowledgement of the fragility of our human nature.
I also spoke about the origins and development of the Maltese language and literature, which the audience particularly appreciated given that Maltese is the only official language of the European Union with Arabic origins. The session was chaired by, Mr Mojmír Jeřábek, director of the Czech Centre, and also featured the indefatigable Nicole Ertl, from the Malta Embassy in Vienna, who read German translations of my poems.
The poems we read, from my collection Rakkmu (KKM, 2006) were “Iċ-Ċimiterju ta’ Arlington, Virginia,” “Kanċellazzjoni tal-Istorja,” “Baħar Jgħum f’Għajnejk,” and “Ċinji.” The audience particularly enjoyed listening to the sounds and rhythms of the Maltese language and asked about the translation of Maltese literature into other languages. I mentioned the crucial role played by the Czech literary translator and cultural operator Alexandra Buchler who introduced Inizjamed and Malta to Literature Across Frontiers and to residential literary translation workshops where bridge languages are used.
After the opening in the Czech Center and the readings by myself and the Czech writer Jaroslav Rudiš, there were readings at the Polish Institute by the Polish author Magdalena Marszałkowska and her Swedish colleague Cecilia Hansson. At the same time, Maria Hatala (Slovakia) and the Slovenian Tamara Štajner were on stage at the Slovak Institute, while the translator Annemarie Emeder performed at the Institut français from Gemma Salem’s work “Where are those who love your soul?” At 9 p.m., Ferenc Barnás read at the Collegium Hungaricum, Sarah Kuratle from Switzerland and Jaroslav Rudiš read again at the Czech Center.
On Saturday 22 October I visited the amazing Literaturmuseum in Vienna and really enjoyed the experience of Austrian literature offered by the Museum. It would be great to have a similar Museum of Maltese Literature. This would be a longterm project, but well worth it.
I would like to thank the Embassy of Malta in Austria and Arts Council Malta for inviting me to represent Malta and our literature in Vienna. It’s an honour and a pleasure.